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Brainstorming Your ERAS Personal Statement

  • by Sarah Godfrey
  • Jul 13, 2022
  • Reviewed by: Amy Rontal

So, you’re sitting in front of a blank Word document with no idea how to start. You are not alone. The ERAS personal statement is the hardest part of the residency application. No one likes to write about themselves, and it feels like a painful exercise to try to sound impressive but not arrogant. If you’re stuck on how to start writing, here are some suggestions to get the ball rolling.

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Think about something totally unique about you. 

You want someone reading your personal statement to want to meet you. A lot of matching into a residency is finding a group of people who you can work well with, and the personal statement is your first opportunity to show who you are. Sit down and list some interesting facts about yourself (related to medicine or not). Some examples: 

  1. You grew up in another country or culture. 
  2. You play concert piano or the banjo or the xylophone. 
  3. You volunteered abroad for a year. 
  4. You spent time working in another field between college and medical school. 

Try to draw a timeline of what brought you to this specialty. 

Program directors want to know why you are a good fit for this specialty and why you want to pursue it in the first place. Draw out a timeline of the events or experiences that lead you to medical school and specifically this specialty. Did you do research in the field? Volunteer in a hospital or clinic? Have a particularly inspiring mentor?    

Make a list of the top 3-5 experiences you want your readers to know. 

Take a look at your CV and pick out the top 3 things you are proud of. If someone was only going to look at your personal statement, what are the things you want to highlight about yourself? Did you have a leadership position? Public health initiative? Extra degree? Win an award? You put in the work for these achievements, and this is your opportunity to talk about them. 

Envision your dream career in 5-10 years. 

Write down what your dream job would be in the next decade. You don’t have to have it all figured out, but try to get specific. Do you want to work in urban or rural medicine? Academic or community? Inpatient or outpatient? Research or clinical? Subspecialty or generalist? Program directors know you may change your mind in residency, but they want to see that you’re informed about the specialty and have given your career goals some thought.   

Put it all together. 

Once you’ve brainstormed a bit, try to put it all together into a first draft. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but it will give you a sense of where you are going. Start with the unique quality you want to highlight, then walk the reader through the timeline and achievements that lead you to this specialty, and finally describe what your ultimate career goals are (and what you are looking for in a residency). It will probably take you 3-5 drafts to get to the final ERAS personal statement, but it feels so much better once you have an outline to work from.   

If you have any questions about the residency application process or need help getting started on your personal statement, please reach out to us to help you write the perfect statement. 


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